Madison Hayes (J.D. ’22) spent every career day growing up in a blazer with a legal pad and coffee mug because “that’s what lawyers do.” Hayes knew early on that she wanted to be an attorney, partially because she was known in her family to be skilled at arguing, but also because she was able to see the ins and outs of the business from family members who were attorneys. She enjoyed it so much that she worked at a variety of firms throughout high school and undergrad.
After graduating from Georgia Southern University, Hayes knew she wanted to stay in Georgia and says she fell in love with the College of Law after visiting the campus. Currently in her second year, she’s still exploring the many areas of law, but has an interest in public interest work, which led her to taking part in the Olmstead Disability Rights Clinic. Here she discusses that experience and how it’s helped prepare her for her legal career.
What made you interested in the Olmstead Clinic?
I was drawn to the Olmstead Clinic because I’ve always wanted experience in public interest, and it gave me an opportunity to work with kids. The Olmstead Clinic works with the Disability Integration Project at Atlanta Legal Aid Society and is named for the landmark Supreme Court case Olmstead v. LC and EW which clarified the “integration mandate” of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We try to get people services they are entitled to through government funding in the most integrated settings, so trying to get their necessary services within the community, not in a facility.
DIP works with both adults and children with disabilities, I mostly worked with our youth clients. A lot of the children we’re working with have multiple different agencies trying to help them. We’re trying to coordinate and make sure that they’re getting their needs met and holding the agencies accountable so that the kids are the priority.
Overall, it was very hands on. I did anything from complex legal research to sitting in on inter-agency meetings, to case organization, and speaking with clients.
What were some of the big takeaways?
I realized that our public agencies are overworked and understaffed. It became apparent how important organizations like ALAS are to make sure that someone’s holding other agencies accountable and making sure that someone’s always looking out for these kids.
In a positive light, I was actually able see the change that this work does. I saw that people were getting their needs met, and that we could bring the right stakeholders the table, introduce the right people if we weren’t the ones who could help out, and really witness the positive impact in real life, so that was great.
What advice do you have for other students?
I would encourage other students to participate in these externships and clinics when they have the opportunity. Law school is great and that it prepares you with how to read the law and understand it. But you don’t really know what it means until you have your hands-on practice. Also, the agencies and people who partner with Georgia State Law to do these externships and clinics really want to help the students learn; they’re great teachers and mentors.
Interview by Mara Thompson